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Police have eye on highway bypass

I recently relocated back to the Rogue Valley and have discovered the shortcut to Medford via the Rogue Valley Expressway, which features a 55 mph speed limit. I follow the speed limit, but just about everyone goes faster. Even a sheriff’s deputy passed me going about 70 mph. Shortly after going over a small hill, another car passed going at least 90 mph. How would I know? At 55, it was like I was standing still. But he or she quickly caught up to the deputy’s rig, and did their back lights ever light up! So they knew the speed limit. So my question is this: “Why are there not any patrols on that section of road?” I have yet to see one, and I use the expressway four to five times a week. You need a patrol or two out there, otherwise there will be an accident, in time, with all of the excessive speeds.

— Boyd, Eagle Point

The Rogue Valley Expressway, which bypasses congestion along Highway 62, is under the jurisdiction of Oregon State Police, according to OSP and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Troopers patrol and enforce traffic laws on the expressway just as they do on other highways under OSP jurisdiction, according to OSP Lt. Tyler Lee.

However, the expressway does present challenges for enforcement. Because of limited highway shoulder space, there are only a few places where a patrol car can safely remain stationary while working speed enforcement, he said in an email.

There are also few places to safely conduct a traffic stop, Lee said.

Instead of sitting and observing vehicles, OSP troopers instead are usually driving and using moving radar or pacing violators as they drive, he said.

Lee said he has observed traffic violations on the expressway but then made the traffic stop once he and the violator are off the expressway.

“The fact that we are regularly driving the expressway and patrolling rather than sitting stationary, and the fact that we are making traffic stops off the expressway for violations observed on the expressway could be in part why there might be a perception that enforcement is not taking place,” Lee said. “When we make traffic stops on public roadways, we must always evaluate the safety of the officer, the safety of the violator, and the safety of other motorists in the area.”

While OSP has jurisdiction over the bypass, Medford police and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office have shared jurisdiction over Highway 62, also known as Crater Lake Highway, according to ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming.

Police cover the part of Crater Lake Highway within Medford city limits, and sheriff’s deputies take over jurisdiction once the highway extends outside the city, he said.

However, the different law enforcement agencies can make traffic stops regardless of the assigned jurisdiction. A sheriff’s office deputy, for example, could give someone a ticket for speeding on the expressway, Leaming said.

Because of the enforcement challenges the bypass presents, Lee said he has openly encouraged the Medford Police Department and sheriff’s office to use their officers to enforce traffic laws on the bypass.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.